The Morrison Shelter

In the UK during World War Two, due to the lack of house cellars it was necessary to develop an effective type of indoor shelter. The Morrison shelter, officially termed Table (Morrison) Indoor Shelter, had a cage-like construction beneath it, and was designed to be able to withstand the upper floor falling, of a typical two story-house undergoing a partial collapse. [Read more…]

Evaporative Air Conditioning

Evaporative coolers have been known to purveyors of low-cost, sustainable technologies for years. Without the need for electricity, these cold containers have kept produce fresh from farms to tables, protecting against post-harvest losses in the field and food spoilage in hot pantries worldwide.

Now the concept has been applied to air conditioning. Manoj Patel Design Studio in Vadodara, Gujarat (India) has built evaporative air conditioners that can cool a room for days on a single tank of water. The studio designs new products from recycled materials, and they built their air conditioners from ceramics and stone, integrating them with potted plants. By filling rows of ceramic tubes with water, the prototypes maximize their surface area for optimal evaporation while retaining a small footprint.

Read more: This Air Conditioner for Homes and Offices Uses No Electricity, Engineering for Change. Previously: How to keep beverages cool outside the refrigerator: the botijo.

Sustainability Gains from Meat Alternatives

“Meat, an important source of protein and other nutrients in human diets, is one of the major drivers of global environmental change in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, land and water use, animal welfare, human health and directions of breeding. Novel alternatives, including novel meat proxies (cultured meat, plant-based meat alternatives), insects and novel protein sources (like algae) receive increasing attention. But plausible socio-technological pathways for their further development have not yet been compared in an integrative, interdisciplinary perspective.”

“High levels of transformation and processing limit the environmental sustainability gains of cultured meat, highly processed plant-based meat alternatives, algae- and insect-based food. At the same time, a high degree of societal coordination is needed to enable the potentially disruptive level of technological, organisational and institutional innovations needed to make these novel alternatives viable. Widespread expectations that solutions require break-through novelties or high-tech alternatives imply a neglect of existing and viable alternatives.”

“Our integrative analysis suggests that the priority given to meat alternatives with limited sustainability potential does not just raise questions of technological optimisation of production systems, but is also a second-order problem of the framing of search directions.”

Read more: Meat alternatives; an integrative comparison, Cor van de Weele et al., Trends in Food Science and Technology, April 2019. Image: Presentation of the world’s first cultured hamburger being baked at a news conference in London on 5 August 2013. World Economic Forum (CC BY 3.0)

Another Day, Another Low-tech Website

French designer and researcher Gauthier Roussilhe was inspired by our solar powered website and built a low-tech website himself, documenting the process in detail (and in English). It’s a great work, and there’s some interesting differences with our solar powered blog.

First, Roussilhe built his site with a user friendly content management system (Kirby), which is then converted into a static website. Compared to our approach, this makes it easier to build a light-weight website for those who are accustomed to working with WordPress.

Second, the designer also tackles his videos, which are hosted on Vimeo and Youtube, and manages to reduce their “weight” by 75%. This is a major contribution, because video takes up the largest share of internet traffic.

Here’s his own conclusion:

If we take stock: I reduced the weight of my site by 10, the average weight of a page by more than 3 and I reduced the weight of my videos on third-party services by 4. I have a site extremely simple to administrate, very light so very fast, which consumes very little electricity and therefore emits little GHG.

The site also follows all the canons of today’s digital design: mobile-first, accessibility, loading speed. In fact it is quite surprising to realize that structural limitations (weight / energy) lead to navigation experiences much more accessible to all audiences regardless of their equipment, their connection or their imperative motricity or vision.

Read more: Digital guide to low tech.

The Complication of Leisure

During the past two decades there has been a disturbing trend in American sports, a trend in which our “toys” have evolved from the simple to the intricate. No matter whether it’s boating, bicycling, skiing or backpacking, the goal seems to be the same: to improve the performance and efficiency of the equipment. Outdoor equipment today becomes “obsolete” after only a season or two, made so by the constant introduction of newer, more sophisticated models.

Manufacturers of recreational equipment — who have the most to gain from the complication of leisure — spend millions to promote “new, improved” products. And at what cost to our sense of fun and play? We seem so bent on results — on being “successful” — that we often forget why we took up a particular sport in the first place. In other words, play is beginning to look more and more like work. And, at the same time, the price tag on our toys has gone sky-high.

One of the primary benefits of using traditional archery gear — aside from saving lots of money, especially when you make your own gear — is that it promotes a sense of fun and encourages a carefree spirit. Archers who go traditional always seem to agree that once they make the switch, archery is once again exciting.

Quoted from the introduction to “The Traditional Bower’s Bible, Volume One“, Steve Allely, Tim Baker, Paul Comstock, Jim Hamm, Ron Hardcastle, Jay Massey, and John Strunk, 1992. Image by Clay Hayes.

Klopotec: a Bird-Scaring Wind-Rattle

A “klopotec” or “klapotets” is a wooden mechanical device on a high wooden pole, similar to a windmill. It is used as a bird scarer in the vineyards of traditional wine-growing landscapes of Slovenia, Austria, and Croatia. The first written mentions of the technology date to the second half of the 18th century, whereas its oldest depictions date to the first half of the 19th century. [Read more…]